For the first time in the history of the Columbia University Program in Physical Therapy an elective course is going to be directed by students. The Private Practice Elective, an idea born from my classmate Shaun Whited and myself, will be a component of the 3-year Professional Leadership and Practice course series under the direction of Dr. Debra Krasinski Program Director, and faculty member Dr. Laurel Daniels Abbruzzese.  A critical element of the elective is the creation of an individual project in the final year of study, called PT Shark Tank, for which students may receive credit on their academic transcript. That individual project becomes part of a student portfolio of work, tying the elective to the broader objectives of the Professional Leadership and Practice course.

Whited told me that he wanted “a way to learn more about what it means to go into private practice, and to have opportunities to meet students from other programs on campus.” His previous experience as a business owner and professional musician taught him the importance of networking to generate business opportunities:  “I made a living off of networking.”

The elective will serve as a catalyst for further development, understanding, learning, and research by students who aspire to engage in a private practice. Students from all three DPT classes are invited to participate, and those who do participate will organize, manage, and direct the course along with their faculty advisor, Dr. Mahlon Stewart. The elective also serves as a vehicle for students to explore the unique networking opportunities on the Columbia University Irving Medical Center campus, home to graduate programs in medicine, nursing, dentistry, public health, and physical and occupational therapy.

In a recent survey of the three DPT classes, Whited and I found that 52% of the 125 respondents had a definite interest in owning a private practice one day, and 71% of respondents were interested in learning more about starting, building, and running a successful practice. We let our imaginations run for the goals of the class and how students could benefit from it.

The course is built off of three core pillars; 1) Providing students with the opportunity to learn about the business and finance side of PT from the leaders of various fields. 2) Provide students with the opportunity to dedicate school time to working on out of school goals. 3) Provide students with a platform to network with one another, meet students from other Columbia University Students as well as professionals who are out in the field making it all happen.

Whited and I hope this kind of educational innovation will spread to other programs in the United States, so other students can have the same opportunity we have been provided. This course provides students with an incredible opportunity to have a voice in what they learn about and who they learn it from. It is different, and different can be exciting.

“We cannot solve problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”

–Albert Einstein

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